As you’ve probably heard by now, the Washington Nationals are officially out of this year’s post-season race because of a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals Monday night paired with wins from the Reds and the Pirates.
Despite the Nationals’ last-minute surge in the past two months, which included a 29-game hitting streak by Denard Span, 11 home runs by Ryan Zimmerman in the month of September, and a possible batting title for Jayson Werth, a lot of things went wrong for the Nationals this season. They had injuries that disabled Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, Jayson Werth and Ross Detwiler for extended periods. They had a number of players – Adam LaRoche, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman among them – play well below their ability level over the first four months. They struggled getting on base and pushing across add-on runs, and when they did get on base, they left too many players there without scoring. Their bench provided very little and their bullpen was inconsistent. They waited too long for Danny Espinosa, Roger Bernadina, and Henry Rodriguez to turn things around before releasing them. But despite all that, the Nats could still end up with as many as 89 wins, which isn’t too shabby.
The Nationals still have to finish their series in St. Louis and then travel to Arizona to finish off the regular season against the Diamondbacks. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to play the next 5 games without any real purpose, but many teams have been doing that already; some, like the Houston Astros with their 51-106 record, have been playing without any postseason hope for weeks now and they seem to be surviving. So I hope that Harper (who went to the postseason in his first year in the Majors last year), Werth, Desmond, and the other guys can hang in there for a few more games and play for pride and individual statistics. And hey, if they beat the Cardinals in their last 2 games against them, that impacts the Wild Card race and divisional standings with the Reds and Pirates. So the Nationals can play spoiler for the next couple of days and enjoy the off-season starting next week.
Stay tuned, because after the regular season is over, I will analyze this past season and give you my insight on what’s to come during the “hot stove” time and into next year. For now, I’ll be rooting for the Pirates.